The Devil's Arithmetic

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The Devil's Arithmetic is a historical fiction novel written by American author Jane Yolen and published in 1988. The book is about Hannah Stern, a Jewish girl who lives in New Rochelle, New York and is sent back in time to experience the Holocaust. During a Passover Seder, Hannah is transported back in time to 1942 Poland, during World War II, where she is sent to a work camp and learns the importance of knowing about the past.

The Devil's Arithmetic was nominated for the Nebula award for best novella in 1988[1] and won the National Jewish Book Award (in the category for children's literature) in 1989.[2] The script for a 1999 Showtime television film with the same title, starring Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy, was also nominated for a Nebula Award.[3]


Hannah Stern is a Jewish girl living in the present day (time of publication: 1980s). She is bored by her relative's stories about the past, is not looking forward to the Passover Seder, and is tired of her religion. When Hannah symbolically opens the door for the prophet Elijah, she is transported back in time to 1942 Poland, during World War II. At that time and place, the people believe she is Chaya Abramowicz, who is recovering from cholera, the fever that killed Chaya's parents a few months ago. The strange remarks Hannah/Chaya makes about the future and her inability to recognize her "aunt" Gitl and "uncle" Shmuel are blamed on the fever.


  1. ^ "(Awards & Nominations)". Jane Yolen. May 18, 2003. Retrieved April 29, 2012.
  2. ^ National Jewish Book Award Winners
  3. ^ "Year 2000 Nebula Nominations (Press Release)". SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). April 15, 2000. Archived from the original on December 1, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)